9 intriguing facts about chinchillas
1. FUR BABIES Chinchillas are famed for their soft, dense fur. In fact, each chinchilla hair follicle has 60 to 90 individual hairs emerging from it, compared to humans, who typically have just one measly hair per follicle. Their luscious coats are designed to help them survive in the chilly temperatures of their native environment – the Andes Mountains of South America.
2. ALL EARS Chinchillas have large ears and sensitive hearing, which is attuned to listening out for predators. Chins are easily startled by sudden loud or unfamiliar sounds, which is why they prefer to live in calm and quiet households. A startled chinchilla may even stand on its back legs and spray urine in the face of any potential threat!
3. GET A GRIP Chinchillas have hairless, fleshy footpads, enabling them to be extremely agile and maintain their grip on rocky surfaces.
4. THE HUNCH BUNCH Chinchillas like to sleep hunched up, squeezed into small places. This is because, in the wild, these small animals don’t burrow, but live in rock crevices or holes, keeping themselves safely tucked away, out of the reach of hungry predators.
5. FOR THE HIGH JUMP Chinchillas have long hind limbs which are adapted for leaping away from trouble. Amazingly, they can jump over six feet in height from a standing start!
6. CHIN CHAT: Although generally quiet animals, chinchillas enjoy communicating with other chinchillas (never keep one on their own) via a variety of soft, high-pitched grunts, hiccupping noises, chirps, squeals and barks.
7. BATHING BEAUTIES: Chinchillas love to spend around 20 minutes each day in the bath – a sand bath that is! In the wild, chinchillas use fine sand to keep their coats clean and in prime condition. Always use specialist chinchilla sand in a sturdy, wide bowl about 10cm deep – ordinary sandpit or builders’ sand is too coarse and will damage fur and skin.
8. GRUB’S UP Chinchillas eat by sitting on their haunches, holding the food in their forepaws. Wild chinchillas eat leaves, stems, bark and seeds and pet chinchillas need a high fibre diet and plenty of high quality feeding hay, which as well as keeping their digestion healthy, also helps to wear down their continually growing teeth.
9. LONG LIVE CHINS Pet chinchillas have an exceptionally long lifespan for a small animal and can live for up to 15 years.